Jason Miller/Getty Images

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid goes down, no ‘next man up’ in Philadelphia

Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid goes down, no “next man up” with Philadelphia 76ers. Now for a live look at the state of the Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia went into 16-win Cleveland on Wednesday night and lost in a way that has summed up a disappointing season.

That started with some bad luck: Ben Simmons already was sidelined for at least a couple more weeks with a nerve impingement in his lower back, then on Wednesday Joel Embiid sprained his shoulder when he got tangled up with Cavaliers’ big man Ante Zizic.

Embiid did not return to the game after this, an MRI on Thursday will provide details and a timeline for how long Embiid may be out.

Injuries and bad luck hit every team over the course of 82 games in the NBA, but the elite teams respond. With the best teams, there is a “next man up” mentality that works.

The next man up for the Sixers should have been Al Horford — Philadelphia signed Horford last summer as Embiid insurance. Except Horford scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, continuing a season that has seen him struggle with his shot and not be nearly as effective in general as he had been in Boston (and Atlanta before that).

All the guys that were supposed to step up didn’t: Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson combined to score 30 points on 12-of-35 shooting (34.3 percent), including 4-of-14 from three. Shake Milton was the only Sixer getting things done.

Philadelphia lost to Cleveland 108-94, the Sixers seventh straight road loss (they are 9-21 away from home now). The Sixers remain the five seed in the East, unable to catch the stumbling Heat to even get home court in the first round.

Some of that has been bad luck but, on teams like Boston (keep reading down to No. 2 on this list), when one or two players go down, others step up. That has not been Philly this season.

There are more than six weeks before the playoffs start, these are the dog days of the season, and one could make the argument that there is plenty of time for the Sixers to get healthy, get on a little run, and enter the playoffs a dangerous team. But if you’re making that argument right now, you look like a dog, sitting at a table, in a burning house.

2) Meanwhile, Boston is coming together, beat Utah, and went 3-1 on a trip out West. If there’s a team that looks like it can cause problems for Milwaukee in the East — and that remains a big “if” — it feels more and more like that team is Boston.

The Celtics are without their All-Star starter Kemba Walker but, unlike in Philly, they have their next man up in the form of Jayson Tatum. He scored 33 points in a shootout duel with Donovan Mitchell, leading Boston to a 114-103 win in Utah

Boston had its other guys step up: Jaylen Brown had 20 points, Marcus Smart had 17 and keeps making shots in the fourth quarter, and Daniel Theis and the rest of the Celtics’ big men held their own against Rudy Gobert inside (Gobert has not played like his All-Star self of late, but that’s another topic).

Boston just went 3-1 on their West Coast swing, the only loss being a close game against the Lakers at Staples. The Celtics are coming together at the right time, and more than winning things just feel cohesive with this team. Our own Keith Smith summed it up well.

3) Trae Young blocks Mo Bamba’s shot at the rim. Trae Young is 6’1” and — to put it very kindly — is not exactly known for his defense.

Orlando’s Mo Bamba is 7’0” and was drafted to be the future at center in Orlando.

Watch Young block Bamba at the rim (by going behind him, but it’s still a smart play).

Good on Trae Young for the hustle, but this sums up a whole lot about Bamba to me.

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman, possible first-rounder, staying in 2020 NBA Draft

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michigan State power forward Xavier Tillman went No. 23 in the last mock draft by Kurt Helin and Rob Dauster.

That’s the type of confidence in Tillman that has him staying in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Michigan State release:

Michigan State men’s basketball rising senior Xavier Tillman Sr. (Grand Rapids, Mich./GR Christian) announced today that he would remain eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft and plans to hire an agent.

Tillman doesn’t look like a typical first-round pick. He’s an upperclassman, 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds and not an elite athlete.

But he just knows how to play.

Tillman is a physical interior defender who’s mobile enough on the perimeter. His basketball intelligence typically outshines his physical limitations.

That also goes for offense, where Tillman is also hamstrung by lackluster outside shooting. But Tillman can screen and finish or pass – a useful combination for a roller in the NBA.

I’m not sure whether Tillman will go in the first round. Teams tend to value higher-upside players, as the draft is often the best opportunity to acquire a star.

But Tillman was darned effective in college and has a reasonable chance of being effective in the NBA. In this draft, that should make him a first-round pick.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.